PolySciFi Blog

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Uplifting Mice

In David Brin's Uplift Saga (sample chapters of Sundiver available here), all spacefaring species in the universe were "uplifted" by some other species, except for humans which somehow did it on their own. When a species is uplifted, its intelligence is greatly enhanced and it is given the technology for traveling to the stars. As a tradeoff for this benefit, the uplifted species has to serve in indentured servitude for an extended period of time.

In this universe, a species' social rank in the universe is determined primarily by the number of other species that it has uplifted. So when aliens finally come across humans, they are confused by 1) where our parent species are 2) how we managed to advance on our own to become a space faring species. However, since we've already uplifted chimps and dolphins, we're grudgingly accepted into the universe's society.

Today, via Futurepundit, I see where we're now implanting human brain cells in mice. Uplift in process?

However, the folks at the National Academy of Science don't see this as an uplifting process. As quoted by Randall, Professor Henry T. Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, said:
"We concluded that if we see any signs of human brain structures . . . or if the mouse shows human-like behaviors, like improved memory or problem-solving, it's time to stop.''
For the time being, I'll ignore the considerable weird uncomfortable ethical questions this raises (in my gut, I'm against chimeras), and merely note a) it's about time we started working our way up the alien social ladder and b) I'm looking forward to having my own mouse butler.

As an interesting little aside, Brin has a polyscifi like site here. (politics + science fiction, but without our stupid stuff)

Why do I care so much about the mouse butler? Because once we've figured out how to make a mouse butler, it's only a short while until we have monkey butlers.


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